Broadening the Horizons of our Minds

Reflections on Faith and Science

Asian Trading Corporation, Bangalore, 2021, p.104, Rs 150

Kipling famously wrote, “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” This, for many in today’s post-modern world, seems also to be the case with faith and reason, which makes this very insightful book by Dr Fio Mascarenhas SJ both timely and helpful. His expertise in the biblical domain enables him to treat urgent topics like ‘Original Sin,’ ‘Genesis and Science,’ ‘Don’t blame God for our problems,’ ‘Climate Change,’ etc. with both ease and delicacy.

Youth today, a significant number I can assure you, find the Bible ‘weird,’ since several discoveries and theories of science apparently make more sense to the modern mind. A fundamentalist version of Creation, Adam and Eve, etc. is judged to be no longer tenable. On the other hand, many scientific achievements in fields like medicine, astronomy, etc., can only redound to the glory of our Creator. So faith and science must “complement each other,” as Popes Francis, Benedict XVI and St John Paul II are clearly teaching.

As the world continues to reel from the pandemic and its resultant suffering, the author challenges us to unpack the deep relationship of Christian faith and science, so as to “reassure the faithful, and especially young people, that their Church sees this relationship as one of complementarity and mutual stimulus” (St John Paul II). Whether he is dealing with particulate matter, salvation history, economic theory, eco-spirituality, etc., the author draws on the Word of God and stresses the need for its correct interpretation.

“Literary forms help reveal the intention of the author,” Fr Fio writes, quoting Dei Verbum; but in some sense, his own lithe yet lucid literary form helps reveal his own intention: to share from his own insights… much “like the master … who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (Mt 13:52). Little wonder then that some of these things are old, really old… no, seriously, really really old—13.8 billion years old, as he dates the possible initiation of the universe – or even more profoundly of “the beginning” in Genesis; and ultimately of God WHO IS beyond space and time.

Two of my favorite Chapters are ‘Faith and Science’ and ‘Eco-spirituality.’ The author treats these topics with authority, drawing from Pope Benedict XVI ("We cannot say: creation or evolution. The exact formula is creation and evolution, because both respond to two different questions), and St Augustine (“God speaking to us through two books, the book of Scripture, and the book of Nature”), and of course St John Paul II: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…” (Fides et Ratio).

My other favorite is Eco-Spirituality, as it overlaps with my day job – the world of finance, the economy and the sustainability of the planet. The recently published IPCC report from the United Nations spells the grave danger to our planets, and also to our city, if the pace of global warming remains unchecked. In true Ignatian style, Fr Fio introduces us, but doesn’t rush us; in fact, teasingly, lets us reflect and arrive at our own conclusion regarding the deep link between ‘original sin,’ ‘original selfishness,’ ‘survival of the fittest,’ ‘exploitation of the weak,’ and the ‘plundering of the planet.’

This brilliant and much-needed book will surely “broaden the horizons of their minds” of all its readers.

Royston Braganza